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New conversation on health needed

Ontario needs a new conversation about health—and very little of that conversation is about health care, says Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

This conversation has to have a clear understanding that the factors that influence health, and the ways through which we can improve health, lie for the most part outside of the health sector.

In her 2010 annual report to the legislative assembly, Dr. Arlene King said good health starts in childhood, in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and our communities.

Health-care systems exist to help people after they get sick or injured, and cannot be held solely responsible for improving the overall health of our population.

Dr. King called for a comprehensive plan that is geared towards health promotion and chronic disease and injury prevention.

She recommended:

•applying a health lens to every program and policy;

•setting clear health goals and targets;

•settling on a finite set of health indicators;

•tearing down the impediments to collaboration between the municipal, health, education, social services, and environment sectors;

•greater collaboration among the public health, primary care, and acute care sectors; and

•recognizing and rewarding the health achievements of both the health and non-health sectors.

“I believe we all want an Ontario in which every child that is born starts out and remains on the road to lifelong good health,” said Dr. King.

“We can build this road—for ourselves and our children,” she stressed.

“So let’s have a new conversation about health, and let’s develop a strategy to become the healthiest people in the world.”

Physical activity, as well as vegetable and fruit consumption rates, in Ontario are higher than in 2000/01 but lower than in 2005.

Overall, smoking rates in Ontario have remained essentially the same since 2005.

Obesity rates have risen from 16 percent in 2000/01 to 17 percent in 2007/08.

Meanwhile, alcohol consumption that is high enough to increase the risk of cancer has risen from 17 percent in 2000/01 to 20 percent in 2007/08.

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